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The Theoretical Cook


Friday, April 21, 2006

New Job, Neglected Blog

My new job is depriving me of quality time from blogging. Hmn. Will try to post something substantial over the weekend. Have lots of pictures begging to be posted. :)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Pinoy Cookbook Review: LUTUING PILIPINO ni Aling Charing (1969)

Lutuing Pilipino ni Aling Charing
Copyright, 1961 by Liwayway Publications
Copyright, 1969 by Rosario J. Fabian

Lutuing Pilipino is a priceless cookbook find. National Bookstore has copies, so if you still dont have this gem in your collection, go get yourself one. Its a reasonably priced cookbook (P145.00) ; I got mine from Booksale at a measly P75.00. This is the perfect cookbook for those who wish they had fantastic cooks for lolas but dont. As you browse through the thoughtful recipes with the occasional snippets of wisdom, you'll understand why Aling Charing, through Lutuing Pilipino, can be your surrogate 'lola' in the kitchen.
A few words about Aling Charing, or Rosario Fabian, and her cookbook. Some of the recipes included in the collection were submitted to Mrs Fabian by the avid followers of her column under the same title in Liwaway Magazine. The cookbook is in Tagalog/Filipino and some units of measurement boggle the contemporary non-Tagalog mind - eg. puswelo. The tone and the context are definitely pre-women's lib, nevertheless, reading the cookbook is a joy. Nevermind such profundities as: Mas kasabihang "ang pinakamabisang paraan upang malapit ang isang babae sa puso ng isang lalaki ay sa pamamagitan ng pagdudulot sa kanya ng masasarap na pagakain." Alalaong baga, kung maaakit ang puso ng naturang lalaki. Kaya mahalaga na matutong magluto ang babae.
Stick to the recipes, take the occasional archaic comments with a grain of salt, and have fun cooking.
So you'll have a good idea of the comprehensiveness of the cookbook, heres an outline of its contents:
Iba't ibang Lutuin buhat sa Karne
Ibat ibang Lutuin buhat sa Isda
Ibat ibang Lutuin buhat sa mga Lamang Dagat
Ibat ibang lutuin buhat sa Gulay
Ibat ibang lutuing may Gata at Buko
Mga di-Pangkaraniwang Lutuing Banyaga
Makaroni, "Spaghetti", Pansit
Iba't ibang Lutong Sopas
Iba't ibang Lutuin Buhat sa Itlog
Iba't ibang Uring Ensalada at Atsara
Iba't ibang Uring Salsa
Iba't ibang Lutuin Buhat sa Bigas
Mga Pagkain para sa Minandal
Mga Panghimagas, Ibat ibang Kendi
Mga Pamatid-Uhaw
Mga Kaalamang Pangkusina
Talahuluganan sa Pagluluto.

There, thats what the cookbook contains. I have yet to come across a Filipino cookbook of this 'magnitude'. More than the scope, what I truly love about this cookbook is its underlying purposive tone, to quote Aling Charing: " Isa sa mahalagang tungkulin ng babae bilang ina ng tahanan ay ang ihanda ang pagkain ng kanyang mag-anak upang mapangalagaan ang kalusugan ng mga ito. At hindi lamang ang babaing may asawa o dalaga ang dapat matutong magluto. Bata pa lamang ay kailangang mag-aral na magluto upang maagang makatulong sa ina at bilang paghahanda na rin sa kanya sa tungkuling mapapasa-balikat niya sa hinaharap. Kaya, sinikap naming ipaliwanag sa mga payak na pananalita ito upang madaling maunawaan at masundan ng kahit na bata."

Thursday, April 06, 2006

My Balbacua

Imitation is the best form of flattery. Presenting my balbacua, to rival, er, approximate the Oarhouse version. I used oxtail, so that might be undue advantage. Some Notes: Used pork and beans. Used almost an entire ginger bulb to counter the lansa of the meat (ginger overkill). Added ground peanuts (not faithful to the Cebu Lahug balbacua version). Had lots of fun. Fed several hungry men.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Kare Kare, Finally

Finally, I cooked the kare-kare, my culinary holy grail. My kare-kare was divine. It now ranks as second best kare-kare, after my Mamang's version - well, in my book.
In A Culinary Life , Nora Daza, who ran the Aux Iles Philippines in Paris and the Maharlika Restaurant in New York, among other culinary accomplishments, once said that she felt that the kare-kare was the most Filipino of our dishes. This was because, despite having traveled extensively in Europe and the US, she found "no dish similar to it." After being exposed to Asian dishes, however, she believes that our kare-kare may have been influenced by the gado-gado in Indonesia or by the Indian dish kadhi. What Daza found distinctively Filipino about the kare-kare are the cooking methods employed and the use of ingredients such as the achuete (annatto seeds) and the bagoong and toasted rice.
If you've read some of my previous posts, then you might remember that what started my interest in all things culinary was the contemplation of human mortality and my Mamang's karekare one Christmas. Watching the slow movements of my aging grandmother, it crossed my mind that when my old grandmother bids the world goodbye, she will leave with her karekare recipe, along with all her other recipes since noone among us had seriously apprenticed in her kitchen. The thought disturbed me no end that I found myself enrolling in cooking school by January of the following year.
Now oxtail kare-kare is one of the ultimate slow foods; it takes 3 hours just to soften oxtail meat. And my lola cooks her karekare in a charcoal stove, and she watches over the simmering meat for hours, up to early dawn sometimes.
After reading and rereading various recipes from all sorts of cookbooks, I finally ventured into cooking the karekare.
Heres my version of the kare-kare : (I relied extensively on Aling Charing's Lutuing Pinoy Cookbook, Copyright 1961). Due to limitations re equipment, I made some deviations from Aling Charing's method.


1 1/2 kg oxtail (sliced)
1/2 banana 'heart' (sliced)
4 pcs eggplants (1 inch slices)
a bundle of pechay)
a bundle of sitaw ( 1 inch slices)
1 cup ground peanuts
1/2 cup achuete (annatto seeds) - soak in 1 cup water
2 tbsp toasted ground rice
laurel leaves (optional)
celery (optional)
3 cloves garlic
2 pcs onion

Cooking the oxtail meat
1) Put the oxtail slices in a stockpot (choose one with a heavy bottom, or you'll end up with burned meats!). Pour around 1 L of water. Let boil. Then throw away the water from the first boiling.
2) Pour around 1L water again over the oxtail slices. For some flavor to the stock, put whole peppercorns, onion slices, and 2 pcs laurel leaves. Add some celery for flavor and to minimize the strong aroma of the cooking meat.
3) Let the oxtail simmer in the pot for around 2 1/2 hours. When the meat is tender, add the ground peanuts and the achuete water. Let simmer until the meat is so tender it almost separates from the oxtail bone.
4) When the meat has reached desired 'tenderness', place the meat in another container. Leave the stock in the pot.

Cooking the vegetables
5) In a saucepan, saute the garlic cloves and the onion slices. Then add the stringbeans and the banana heart slices. Saute until the vegetables are slightly tender. Then add the oxtail slices. Pour the reserved stock. Let simmer for a while. Be sure to check often because the ground peanuts burn easily.
6) Add the toasted ground rice to thicken the sauce.
7) Add the pechay and the eggplant slices on top of the simmering dish. Cover the saucepan to let the vegetables 'steam'.
8) When the vegetables on top are cooked, remove from heat.
9) Serve with alamang ( I used the Barrio Fiesta Alamang).

This is how I made my kare-kare. I tried my best to make the procedure clear. I will try to copy Aling Charings procedure (which is in Tagalog and uses units of measurement such as the 'isang puswelo') for those who want the more detailed method. I recommend Aling Charing's cookbook to anyone who wishes to cook Filipino food....There are other side information that will surely thrill any Pinoy to the bone. In the 1960s, they sure had some pretty strong ideas about women and the kitchen. Will repost soon.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Buco-Pandan Salad - the hard way

I wish it looked more palatable...its just the bad lighting folks. Its really delicious.

There was a time when I was addicted to the buco pandan salad at Ken Afford along Katipunan Road. Their salad was sublime: cream, tender buco cut into precise 'squares' - not the usual noodle like strands, and firm green-colored gulaman. In those days, I was a stranger to the kitchen, but the budding foodie in me wanted to know how they made their buco pandan salad. And the budding foodie wanted to find out the hard way: by experimenting. I have never asked nor consulted anyone about how they make their buco pandan salad. But here's how I make mine:

Buco Pandan Salad

Young coconut meat (three coconuts)
Pandan Leaves (one small bundle)
Cream (250 mL)
Condensada/Sweetened creamer (Carnation brand - 155 mL)
Unflavored Gelatin (Alsa brand - green)

Part 1 - Pandan gelatin
1) Boil the Pandan leaves in 3 to 4 cups water to get the pandan 'extract'. When the pandan leaves lose color, remove the leaves (5 mins or so).
2) Filter the pandan extract to remove impurities.
3) Dissolve the Alsa gelatin powder into the 2 cups of the pandan water/extract. If you want a firm gelatin, you may reduce amount of the pandan water. Let the solution boil. Then transfer to a container (I use microwavable rectangular food containers) and let the gelatin solidify. This takes 45 mins, but you may shorten this by chilling the solution.
4) When firm, cube the gelatin. ( I just use a paring knife and 'cube' the gelatin in the container).

Part 2 - Buco pandan
1) Combine the sliced/scraped coconut meat with the cream and the condensada (you can adjust according to your taste).
2) Add the pandan gelatin to the coconut mixture. Then chill.
3) Serve!

The easy way
Now, that's my complicated version of the dish. I figure another way of doing this is to simply add Pandan Extract (McCormick has one at P27) to the gelatin solution. This will do away with the rather messy affair involving the pandan leaves, the filtering of the pandan water etc. Why dont I do it the simple way? Because it takes the fun out of it. I like boiling the pandan leaves, I like smelling the pandan in the air. And I like the idea that I 'figured' this out....Haha!